Since bringing an entire pipeline system into a lab for inspection is impossible, engineers have combined the know-how of GE Healthcare, GE Oil & Gas, BP, and the applied marine technology company, Oceaneering International, to safely inspect miles of underwater pipeline that sits under more than 4,400 pounds of pressure.
For the equipment to function at extreme depths, the team needed a way to equalize the pressure in the housing with the extremely high subsea pressures, which required a redesign of the detector. To help the pressure equalization process, a new housing was also developed, which the team filled with liquid.
“Our radiography devices are enabled by a delicate piece of glass the thickness of a quarter, and we’re operating at temperatures close to zero degrees Celsius and at pressures approaching 4,500 PSI,” explains Shana Telesz, GE radiography product manager. “Operations are performed remotely from more than a mile away while surrounded by moving water.”
The equipment is deployed with a diver, and operated remotely from the surface. Digital X-ray technology allows instant transmission of images to the surface so operators can make immediate decisions about their equipment.
According to the team, a 12-inch pipe can be inspected with a total X-ray on-time of close to two minutes. Currently, the Subsea X-ray is commercially available and performs reliably at 2,000 feet.